Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular as the idea that “sitting is the new smoking” gains popularity. By replacing sitting with standing, the thinking goes, you are counteracting the risks of sedentary office work. There is some truth to this, but it’s important to have the whole story, including guidance on how to safely transition to a standing desk.
Problems With Sitting
Sitting is not the problem. But sitting for extended periods of time (60 to 90 minutes or more) without a break seems to lead to tight hips, poor circulation and decreased insulin sensitivity. The decreased insulin sensitivity increases diabetes risk and may result in weight gain or difficulty in losing weight.
Remember: standing in place for hours on end is just as unnatural and potentially problematic as sitting for hours on end. Long periods of standing can damage knee cartilage, cause varicose veins and decrease productivity.
Proper Stand-Up Desk Transition
• Get an adjustable desk. You want to be able to go from standing to sitting when your body needs a break, or for tasks requiring greater concentration. Without the ability to make these transitions – especially in the beginning – you put yourself at a very high risk of injury.
• Stand on a pad. Most offices have thin flooring over concrete, so having something soft will help reduce the risk of foot, back and knee pain.
Alternatives to a Stand-Up Desk
If you decide a stand-up desk isn’t for you, but still want to break up your sitting time, here are two simple suggestions:
• Keep and drink more water at your desk. This kills two birds with one stone: you’ll be better hydrated and you’ll be forced to take walking breaks. Research indicates that as little as two minutes of walking per hour of sitting is enough to reduce your risk of disease.
• Set an alarm to alert you to get up every 50 to 60 minutes. Besides reducing the risks of extended sitting, these breaks help your brain work better. Mini breaks – especially with movement – help people process information and solve problems that have become frustrating.
A best-selling author and fitness expert with 16 years of experience, Josef Brandenburg owns The Body You Want club in Georgetown. Information about his 14-Day Personal Training Experience may be found at TheBodyYouWant.com.